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Beginning this week, those receiving food stamps must follow federal work requirements if they want to keep getting SNAP benefits. In coming weeks, convicted drug felons will be tested to make sure they are not using drugs while getting welfare.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

Real welfare reform, not political rhetoric, is important. We must make sure our limited resources go to our truly needy citizens, and we must make sure our welfare system is affordable and effective for Maine taxpayers. But we must also make sure our system helps Mainers get on their feet and learn to lead productive lives.

Even the Obama Administration agrees with me. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture testified recently that, “We want to provide a safety net so that those who are in tough economic circumstances are able to put food on the table; at the same time, we also want to help people move towards self-sufficiency the right way – by helping them to secure and maintain jobs that pay well.”

We couldn’t agree more. Allowing able-bodied people to continue receiving food stamps without requiring them to work will not teach them self-sufficiency. Despite what liberals say, there is no reason for these 12,000 Mainers to lose access to food. They are simply being asked to follow existing federal law and look for a job, enroll in an educational program or perform volunteer work.

Maine Department of Labor has already partnered with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to assist able-bodied food stamp recipients. Participants will get help with work searches and skills assessments. They will learn how to apply for jobs that are a good match for them.

These individuals will be working closely with a CareerCenter consultant. They may be referred to other programs and training opportunities that will help them access the workforce, including apprenticeship, self-employment, education and other resources.

The state-run Maine Job Bank has 8,000 job openings. Employers all across Maine tell me they are looking for help. Hundreds of nonprofits and other organizations are in need of volunteers. There are plenty of work, training and volunteer opportunities for these able-bodied people to fulfill the federal work requirements.

When it comes to testing drug felons on welfare, we must ensure that our tax dollars do not enable drug addiction. TANF is a short-term benefit that assists families and children with the basic necessities.

If someone tests positive for drugs, they are clearly putting their addiction ahead of their family’s needs. Being drug-free is a critical aspect of moving away from poverty and toward self-sufficiency.

Obama’s Agriculture Secretary also stated in his testimony: “I believe we would all agree that working can make a huge difference to people—meaningful work with meaningful pay has a positive impact on individuals, their families, their communities.”

We fully agree with the Secretary.

Thank you for listening.

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